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Deep concern over abduction of journalist in Azerbaijan

The logo for Meydan TV, the media outlet that Shirin Abbasov works for.
The logo for Meydan TV, the media outlet that Shirin Abbasov works for.

Meydan TV English/Facebook

This statement was originally published on on 18 September 2015.

Reporters Without Borders is extremely concerned about Shirin Abbasov, a young reporter held incommunicado for the past two days. He is the latest victim of the government's persecution of journalists working for Meydan TV, a Berlin-based online TV station that covers Azerbaijan.

Abbasov disappeared without trace in Baku on 16 September while on his way to the university. His lawyer, who has not been allowed to see him, thinks he is being held by the MIA, a police unit that is supposed to combat organized crime.

Reporters Without Borders has been told that he has been placed in detention for a 30-day period.

Aytaj Ahmedova, another journalist working for Meydan TV, was also abducted on a Baku street on 16 September by plainclothesmen, who questioned her for several hours and then released her.

“We are very worried to learn that Shirin Abbasov is being held incommunicado,” said Johann Bihr, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.

“We believe that Abbasov is in danger and we demand his immediate release. The Azerbaijani authorities cannot keep on resorting to illegal methods with the country's few remaining independent journalists with impunity.”

Both Abbasov and Ahmedova have covered the many recent trials of human rights defenders and independent journalists such as leading investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova and rights activists Leyla and Arif Yunus.

The police questioned several Meydan TV journalists shortly after Ismayilova's trial and Abbasov has been banned from leaving the country since 30 June because of his work for Meydan TV.

Founded in Berlin in 2013 after the Azerbaijani authorities launched an unprecedented crackdown on civil society, Meydan TV is now a government target because it has established itself as a leading independent source of information about human rights violations and corruption in Azerbaijan.

Meydan TV's founder, Emin Milli, fled to Germany in 2012 after 18 months of arbitrary imprisonment. He reported on 26 June that an intermediary had passed him a message from the sports minister promising that “the state will punish you for this smear campaign against the state that you have organized.”

Under pressure from the regime, several members of Milli's family distanced themselves from him in a letter to President Ilham Aliyev that was published in the Azerbaijani media in late June. His brother-in-law was arrested on trumped-up charges a month later.

Azerbaijan is ranked 162nd out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

What other IFEX members are saying
  • Azerbaijan: Journalist Illegally Detained

    “There is absolutely nothing that justifies denying Shirin Abbasov contact with his lawyer or holding him in the police station for days beyond the legal limit,” Buchanan said. “This leaves the strongest impression that the Azerbaijan government has no actual reason for detaining Abbasov and in fact has something to hide.”

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